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Did The Underlying Business Drive Li Ning's (HKG:2331) Lovely 661% Share Price Gain?

Simply Wall St

It hasn't been the best quarter for Li Ning Company Limited (HKG:2331) shareholders, since the share price has fallen 13% in that time. But that does not change the realty that the stock's performance has been terrific, over five years. Indeed, the share price is up a whopping 661% in that time. So we don't think the recent decline in the share price means its story is a sad one. But the real question is whether the business fundamentals can improve over the long term.

Anyone who held for that rewarding ride would probably be keen to talk about it.

View our latest analysis for Li Ning

While the efficient markets hypothesis continues to be taught by some, it has been proven that markets are over-reactive dynamic systems, and investors are not always rational. One way to examine how market sentiment has changed over time is to look at the interaction between a company's share price and its earnings per share (EPS).

During the last half decade, Li Ning became profitable. Sometimes, the start of profitability is a major inflection point that can signal fast earnings growth to come, which in turn justifies very strong share price gains. Given that the company made a profit three years ago, but not five years ago, it is worth looking at the share price returns over the last three years, too. Indeed, the Li Ning share price has gained 369% in three years. In the same period, EPS is up 137% per year. This EPS growth is higher than the 67% average annual increase in the share price over the same three years. So you might conclude the market is a little more cautious about the stock, these days.

The company's earnings per share (over time) is depicted in the image below (click to see the exact numbers).

SEHK:2331 Past and Future Earnings, February 1st 2020

It is of course excellent to see how Li Ning has grown profits over the years, but the future is more important for shareholders. You can see how its balance sheet has strengthened (or weakened) over time in this free interactive graphic.

What About Dividends?

When looking at investment returns, it is important to consider the difference between total shareholder return (TSR) and share price return. Whereas the share price return only reflects the change in the share price, the TSR includes the value of dividends (assuming they were reinvested) and the benefit of any discounted capital raising or spin-off. Arguably, the TSR gives a more comprehensive picture of the return generated by a stock. In the case of Li Ning, it has a TSR of 666% for the last 5 years. That exceeds its share price return that we previously mentioned. And there's no prize for guessing that the dividend payments largely explain the divergence!

A Different Perspective

We're pleased to report that Li Ning shareholders have received a total shareholder return of 135% over one year. Of course, that includes the dividend. Since the one-year TSR is better than the five-year TSR (the latter coming in at 50% per year), it would seem that the stock's performance has improved in recent times. Given the share price momentum remains strong, it might be worth taking a closer look at the stock, lest you miss an opportunity. Before spending more time on Li Ning it might be wise to click here to see if insiders have been buying or selling shares.

But note: Li Ning may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with past earnings growth (and further growth forecast).

Please note, the market returns quoted in this article reflect the market weighted average returns of stocks that currently trade on HK exchanges.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Thank you for reading.